Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A thought for the trees

An unusually deep depression has swept across the northern British Isles today, unusual for this time of year at least. The time-lapse satellite images are beautiful to watch, an elegant spiral unwinding on a west to east trajectory, like the captivating pictures of distant galaxies or those mysterious traces left by sub-atomic particles spinning off from collisions in a nuclear accelerator.  The whorls of clouds look peaceful and just like the shots of galaxies and smashed atoms they give no sense of the mayhem being wreaked within. No wonder the spiral has been such a potent symbol throughout human history.

Winds have gusted at close to 100 miles per hour in exposed parts of Scotland, bringing a predictably dismal story of commuter chaos and disrupted power supplies. My own evening journey was several hours longer than usual and only made possible at all by the generosity of friends providing a relay of lifts. We arrived home tired and hungry but it was a temporary inconvenience which by tomorrow will be told of as an adventure.

It is the trees I feel saddest about. The streets and gardens are littered with shredded leaves and dismembered limbs. There are fractures and raw wounds everywhere. Many tired old specimens have been uprooted completely. Storms in winter, though often fiercer, tend to cause less damage. The trees are bare and the sap has retreated. A brittle branch may be sacrificed, snapped off to save the whole, but the body survives and repairs. By May even the late trees are in full leaf, weighed down with primavera foliage. Winds like today's may be too much for them to withstand.

Tomorrow, as train timetables get back to normal and television channels are restored, we should pay our respects to the lost trees. We can all bend only so far.


  1. I'd seen that the winds were particularly strong in Scotland. Even here in Wales there are bits of the oak tree in the field behind my garden all over the vegetable patch.

    Yes we should think of the trees, which as you say are more vulnerable at this time of year, though they will survive. As someone who finds weather more interesting than television such things are always of interest!

  2. Right with you on the television versus weather contest. Always something worth watching.

  3. 'We can only bend so far...' What a perfect adage for all life; be it human, fauna and flora...
    These days we are so used to rewind, replay, restore... But life is not a computer game.

    I have been thinking of life without trees and I can’t imagine it ...

  4. Your photograph of the tree is utterly beautiful. Where did you take it?

  5. Thank you Madzia. I think it was a wild day in Glenartney. There were black grouse in the trees too. A rarity these days.